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Pharmacists are health professionals who practice pharmacy. Pharmacists are highly-trained and skilled healthcare professionals who perform various roles to ensure optimal health outcomes for their patients. Pharmacists typically take an order for medicines from a physician in the form of a medical prescription and dispense the medication to the patient.

Pharmacists are also often small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practise. This unique dichotomy is often the subject of debate within the profession - in part due to the perception of pharmacists as "common shopkeepers" by many in the community.

Pharmacists are often, incorrectly, referred to as "Chemists". This term is a historical one, since pharmacists originally were required to complete an undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PhC) and were known as "Pharmaceutical Chemists". This is, however, no longer appropriate and may result in confusion with practitioners of the field of chemistry.



The basic requirement for pharmacists to be considered for registration is an undergraduate or postgraduate Pharmacy degree from a recognised university. In most countries this involves a four-year course to attain a Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) degree.

In Britain, integration with the European Union has resulted in the BPharm course being superceded by a four-year course for the qualification Master of Pharmacy (MPharm). In Australia, apart from the four-year BPharm course, there is the option of a postgraduate 2-year MPharm course for those with undergraduate science degree.

In the United States, pharmacists complete a two-year pre-pharmacy undergraduate program. Following that, the pharmacist will then complete a four year pharmacy program. They will be awarded a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree upon completion of the program. Then a pharmacist will complete an optional post-graduate residency or otherwise enter into the pharmacy practice of their choice, ex. hospital, compounding, nuclear, hospice, community, retail, etc. In the United States, people must pass the Naplex exam and an additional state exam before they can acquire a license to practice pharmacy in that state. It was created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP ).

Pharmacists are trained in fields including pharmacology, chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy practice (including drug interactions, medicine monitoring, medication management), pharmaceutics, pharmacy law , physiology, anatomy and biochemistry.


In order to practise as a pharmacist, the person must be registered with the relevant statutory body , which governs the registration and practice of pharmacy within the territory of its jurisdiction. There is often a requirement for the pharmacy graduate to have completed a certain number of hours of experience in a pharmacy, under the supervision of a registered pharmacist. The statutory body will usually administer a written and oral examination to the prospective pharmacist prior to registration.

In Great Britain, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain is responsible for regulation of pharmacy affairs. Graduates must complete one year of practical training in a pharmacy prior to eligibility to sit the registration examination.

In the United States, a person must pass the Naplex examination before they can practice pharmacy.


Pharmacists are often the first point-of-contact for patients with health enquiries. This means that pharmacists have large roles in the primary healthcare of patients.

These roles include, but are not limited to:

  • compounding medicines
  • dispensing medicines on prescription
  • provision of non-prescription medicines
  • counselling and advice on optimal use of medicines
  • advice on common ailments
  • referral to other health professionals if necessary
  • general health advice
  • monitoring of treatment regimens
  • general health monitoring
  • reviewing medication regiments
  • clinical medication management
  • providing pharmaceutical care


Specialties exist within the pharmacy profession, much as in the medical profession. The primary factor resulting in specialisation is the place of occupation. Such specialities include:

  • Community pharmacist
  • Hospital pharmacist
  • Consultant pharmacist
  • Locum pharmacist
  • Drug information pharmacist
  • Regulatory-affairs pharmacist
  • Industrial pharmacist

See also

External Links

Last updated: 10-17-2005 02:56:09
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